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Our lives

Protected Structures and Religious Nutcases

I found myself in Clonmel yesterday for business reasons, and since I had plenty of time before my meeting, I wandered around, admiring the town.  It’s not a place  I knew much about, surprisingly, considering how close it is to Limerick, but I was very taken by it: a handsome, unspoilt settlement with a laid-back feel not entirely unlike the ambience of a place like Westport.

I usually have a camera with me, but not this time, since it’s considered bad form to go into a business meeting and slam a dirty big SLR on the table, but still, I agree, a story about Clonmel deserves proper photography.

There you go.  Must try harder.  Now move on.

Blundering down Gladstone Street, my eye settled on an extraordinary shopfront, all battered and storm-torn, and my inbuilt desolation-meter said Stop!  What’s this?

DW Parke Chemist Clonmel

As I lined myself up to take a picture with my phone (something I detest doing normally), a squat, rotund, red-faced woman of 70-something appeared in front of me.

What are ya doin’?

Eh, I’m taking a picture.

Why are ya takin’ a picture?

Because this is one of the finest shop-fronts I have ever seen.

The woman smiled at me, a strange thousand-yard rictus.  He’s a genius.

Who?

Him, said the woman jerking her head  backwards towards the shop.  A genius.

Really?  I said.  Is he still open for business?  It all seems a little battered.

The woman cackled.  No.  He lives  in there … with his sister.

What?  Are we talking Norman Bates here?

The woman ignored me.  In there.  With his sister.  A genius.

I studied the front of the huge old Georgian house with its lovely sliding-sash windows, the original handcrafted timber glazing bars still in place, 170 years of craftsmanship surviving so many changes.  I compared them with the lumpen PVC replacement windows of the  adjoining two houses, flanking the Parke premises  on each side and briefly, the word idiots flashed across my mind, but still the woman was talking , like a fat little scarf-wearing chainsaw.

He has priests on both sides of him.  Imagine that.

I could imagine nothing worse, I said.

What?

Nothing worse than a broken window.

No, agreed the woman, with a doubtful frown.  Are you a  Catholic?

I’m not, I said.

Ah, you’re a Protestant so, she said, summoning up the tolerant smile that small-town people of a certain age reserve for the reassuring old Church of Ireland.

I’m not.  I’m only taking a picture of a shop.  Why do you care what I am?

Where are you from?

Limerick.

That seemed to settle it.

Limerick?  What do you believe in?

I believe in going about my business.

Have you God in your life?

There is no God.  Anyway, I have to go.

No God?  You have no life.

My life is fine, thanks.

Now, I don’t know where they teach that condescending smile.  Maybe there’s a school for old bigots where they learn this move, but in any case, my little busybody had the drill nailed.  The last time I saw a smile-snarl like that, it was on the appalling old harridan, Míne Bean Uí Chribín or assorted members of the Youth Defence family.

You have no life!!

I have.

You have no life without God!!  None!!

I thought her head was going to rotate but thankfully it stayed more or less in one place.  I must be getting very old.  There was a time when I’d have offered such a person a two-syllable farewell, but I surprised myself by turning into Cary Grant.

Good day to you, I said, urbanely, and turned away while the mad lady of Clonmel cackled into the light summer breeze.

It was only later that I realised how I should have answered her questioning, but not with that feeble there-is-no-God nonsense.  When the lady asked if I was a Catholic or a Protestant, I should have said I was a Satanist.  That would have softened her harsh old cough, and if it didn’t the chemist might have had something if she banged on the door.

Yet again, my innate courtesy toward older people has let me  down.  Damn you, polite upbringing!

 

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PS.  DW Parke Chemist shop, 23 Gladstone Street,  is a protected structure, item No 95 in the Clonmel register of protected structures.  The council has the power under section IV of the Planning and Development Act,2000,  to ensure that such an important item of the built  heritage is properly protected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
gardai Policing

Brian Rossiter — Report on Death of Child in Custody Due Shortly

In 2002, 14-year-old Brian Rossiter came home with a black eye and headaches after being attacked by a man in Clonmel. Two days later he was arrested on a public order charge. His father, Pat Rossiter, received a phone call from the gardai asking him to come to the station where they told him that Brian had overdosed on drugs and alcohol. When the police told him that his son had been on a drink and drugs binge for four or five days, Pat Rossiter consented to the child’s detention overnight because he felt a shock would teach him a lesson.

Pat Rossiter, unlike a Garda, is not a professional and therefore wouldn’t know that it is illegal to detain a child in this way.

The Gardai, who did know that it was illegal, imprisoned the child anyway.

The following morning Brian was taken to hospital having been found comatose in the cell. Pat Rossiter received a phone call from the gardai to say that his son had gone cold turkey and was in withdrawal. He went to the hospital and met detectives who suggested to him that Brian had taken a lot of ecstasy and had overdosed. The police also told doctors at the hospital that Brian had taken fifteen to seventeen ecstasy tablets, and later informed the State Pathologist that Brian had taken a large amount of drugs and alcohol. In reality, as subsequent tests showed, Brian Rossiter had no drugs or alcohol in his system. On the other hand, when admitted to hospital from police custody, the fourteen-year-old displayed symptoms consistent with having been punched or kicked in the groin.

Brian died.

A local man, Noel Hannigan, 25, was subsequently arrested and charged with assault causing harm for head-butting the child. When his case came to court, the police added an additional charge of manslaughter without consulting the Director of Public Prosecutions — a charge immediately withdrawn on the instructions of the DPP, who announced that it had been added without his approval.

The State Pathologist found on post mortem examination that Brian died of a slow haemorrhage, most likely caused by the assault, but was later contradicted by two British pathologists, who concluded that the child had died as a result of an injury inflicted while in police custody or immediately preceding his arrest, and not 36 hours earlier, when he was assaulted by Noel Hannigan.

Just over two years after his son was killed, while walking home with relatives, Pat Rossiter, was also arrested on public order charges — an increasingly common, and convenient, reason for arrest in Ireland. Interestingly, this arrest was made by the same policeman who had been in charge of the station the night young Brian died. Pat Rossiter was thrown into the same cell his son had died in, where he had to spend an entire tortured night. When his case came to court, the arresting guard told the court that he did not know who Mr Rossiter was when he arrested him, even though Mr Rossiter is a well-known taxi driver in the town. He also stated that he was unaware of the case Mr Rossiter had taken against an Garda Síochána. The Court threw out the case. Declaring that the charges were groundless, the Judge was highly critical of the Garda evidence against Mr Rossiter.

The Minister for Justice set up a statutory inquiry into the events surrounding the death of Brian Rossiter, but under a very restrictive and obscure piece of legislation that does not allow witnesses to be compelled, or provide protection against actions for defamation. Its terms of reference were severely limited, prompting this complaint from the Rossiters’ lawyer: the terms of reference for the Inquiry do not include an investigation of the cause of Brian Rossiter’s death. Neither is the inquiry tasked with forming an opinion on who killed Brian.

Here are the precise terms of reference:

That the arrest of Brian Rossiter of 11 Mount Prospect, Clonard, County Wexford in Clonmel on the 10th day of September 2002 was unlawful;

That the said Brian Rossiter was unlawfully assaulted during the course of his arrest and detention;

That the Criminal Justice Act 1984 (Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Síochána Stations) Regulations 1987 (S.I. No. 119/1987) were infringed in relation to the detention of the said Brian Rossiter

That the detention in Clonmel Garda Station of the said Brian Rossiter was unlawful;

That ambulance personnel, medical personnel and/or Dr. Marie Cassidy [State pathologist] were wrongfully given incorrect information concerning the consumption of alcohol and drugs by the said Brian Rossiter;

That all the circumstances of the death of the said Brian Rossiter were not fully investigated and all witnesses were not interviewed

Nothing there about who killed the child or how he was killed, you’ll notice.

Nevertheless, despite its shortcomings and limitations, the report is now complete and Pat Rossiter has received a copy.

I know what happened to my son, he says.

The family’s lawyer has written to the minister asking what will be done about “very serious findings against named gardai”.

The minister’s office has said that an abridged version of the report will be issued “within weeks” and I’ll have a lot more to say about that when it comes out.

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Elsewhere:

Lynch & Partners Summary

Lynch & Partners Update